Are these D. H. Lawrence’s greatest short stories? Selected by Dr Oliver Tearle
D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) wrote novels, short stories, and poems, among many other things. Although he died in his mid-forties – from tuberculosis – he was a prolific writer who left behind a vast body of work, including many short stories. Below, we’ve picked five of Lawrence’s very best short stories, and said a little bit about each of them.
‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’. ‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’ was first published in 1926. It’s a story about luck, money, and success, and the dangers of chasing after these and investing too much in them. But how we should analyse and interpret the story remains unclear. The story focuses on a young boy, Paul, who wishes to win money for his mother and who manages to do so by riding his rocking-horse until he enters a state of near-frenzy and he manages to ‘predict’ the name of the horse that will win the next major race. He does this several times, winning ever greater sums of money for his mother, egged on by his Uncle Oscar in whom he confides about the rocking-horse trick. But such a winning streak cannot go on forever…
‘Tickets, Please’. Published in 1918 while the First World War was still raging across the Channel, this story focuses instead on the war between the sexes, as the newly empowered female workforce on the Nottingham trams take arms against the suggestively named (and very cocksure) John Thomas, a young man who has been seeing several of the women behind the others’ backs. Their revenge is fierce, but seems to awaken something unexpected deep within each of the women…
‘Odour of Chrysanthemums’. One of Lawrence’s earliest stories, this one was published in 1911 and focuses on a miner’s wife, Lizzie Bates, living among the mining communities of Nottinghamshire that Lawrence knew so well. When Lizzie’s husband doesn’t come home from his work down the mine, she is angry … and then worried. What has happened to him? In this modernist tour de force we follow Elizabeth’s thoughts and fears across the course of one evening as she waits for her husband to return.
‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter’. A young doctor stops a girl from committing suicide by drowning herself in a lake after her father dies, leaving the family in debt. After she has recovered, Mabel, the horse dealer’s daughter of the story’s title, asks Jack, the doctor, if he loves her, and starts to kiss him – and so begins one of D. H. Lawrence’s most perceptive explorations of the nature of love, and our desire to be loved…
‘Second Best’. This is the shortest of the five classic Lawrence stories on this list, and was first published in 1914. It is not among the most famous of D. H. Lawrence’s short stories. Yet its neglect remains puzzling. It is a disturbing and powerful story about first love and growing up and coming to terms with life’s realities, although molophiles (that’s our coinage for fans of moles) may want to give it a wide birth…
Continue to explore the world of short modernist fiction with James Joyce’s best stories from Dubliners, the best Henry James tales, and Virginia Woolf’s best short fiction.
The author of this article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literary critic and lecturer in English at Loughborough University. He is the author of, among others, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History and The Great War, The Waste Land and the Modernist Long Poem.
Reblogged this on Lengua y Literatura Universal.
I liked The Rocking Horse Winner. My granddaughter has one just like the picture though she will be firmly discouraged from betting on it.
The DH Lawrence stories that stand out to me are A Fragment of Stained Glass for its stark visuals and The Prussian Officer for its depiction of constraint and oppressiveness, It’s a suffocating story.
Also have a soft spot for the novella the Virgin and the Gypsy.
I really enjoy your posts. So many bloggers are only posting mysteries and thrillers. Your blog is a blast of fresh air.
Very kind! Thank you :)